Tourists hit HCMC for inexpensive beauty care, shopping

By Bich Phuong   January 3, 2024 | 07:29 pm PT
Tourists hit HCMC for inexpensive beauty care, shopping
French tourists hold souvenirs bought at Ben Thanh Market in downtown HCMC, September 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong
Xianne from Singapore said the quality of beauty care services and shopping in Ho Chi Minh City is just as good as at home, while also being 3-4 times cheaper.

Xianne is one of many foreigners who have been spending money shopping and visiting hair and beauty salons in HCMC due to the southern metro's uniquely attractive cost-quality ratio.

Before traveling to HCMC in November, Xianne scoured social media and travel sites to plan a three-day trip.

Instead of visiting sightseeing spots like when she traveled Europe, her activities in Saigon mainly involved shopping and beauty treatments, as well as trying Vietnamese delicacies and visiting the city's popular cafes.

Xianne said she explored a number of hair salons and clothing stores reviewed on TikTok as "places only locals know about."

She went to a hair salon in an alley in District 1 for a hairdressing that cost a total of VND1.4 million (US$57.35).


Xianne receives hairdressing services at a beauty salon in District 1, HCMC, November 2023. Photo courtesy of Xianne

She said the price was more than three times cheaper than in Singapore, where she would have paid about VND5 million.

Despite cheap cost, the customer service was "irreproachable" and the salon also used hair care products by famous brands, Xianne said.

"Saigon is a shopping and beauty paradise. I will definitely come back there," she added.

She said the language difference was the biggest barrier while undergoing beauty care services in Saigon, as staff at the hair salons she visited could barely communicate with her and had to use translation software.

On Oct. 17, Vietnamese social media was filled with posts about Lisa – a world-famous member of K-pop's biggest girl group Blackpink – visiting Saigon for shopping.

Lisa and her friend visited three famous local shopping locales: apartment building 26 Ly Tu Trong, The New Playground, and the 42 Ton That Thiep building, all of which are popular with young Saigonese.

Nguyen Huy Hoang, managing director of e-commerce platform Klook's Vietnamese market, said an increasing number of foreigners have been arriving in HCMC to spend on beauty services and shopping.

However, beauty establishments in Ho Chi Minh City still operate on a small scale and have not yet developed their services into tourism products, Hoang said.

Revenues from shopping and beauty services contribute to the tourism industry at a modest figure about 5%, compared to other services such as accommodation, sightseeing, and dining, according to Hoang.

He noted the example of Thailand, where spa and massage chains located in tourist cities such as Bangkok and Phuket are promoted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand as well as other countries' tourism departments, with product coverage on online travel platforms.

Due to the advantage of exchange rate differences, dental and hairdressing services in Vietnam are three to four times cheaper than in Singapore, Australia, and South Korea, while the skills of providers and the quality of services are "always rated much better," said Nguyen Thi Hai Yen, director of travel company Elena Vietnam Travel.

In the first 11 months of the year, tourism revenues in HCMC reached VND160 trillion, up 25% against pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Of that figure, revenues from international visitor shopping contributed 9%, according to statistics.

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